Environmental victory for coastal marine species

In a significant victory for New Zealand’s coastal wildlife, the High Court has backed a landmark 2016 Environment Court finding that Regional Councils can protect their marine environment using the RMA.

Forest & Bird has previously criticised the Government’s appeal as an attempt to road-block regional councils from acting to protect New Zealand’s marine environment.

“We are delighted with this judgement, which confirms regional councils can regulate fishing activity to protect native marine species,” says Forest & Bird lawyer Sally Gepp who represented the organisation in the Tauranga High Court. 

“This decision has important consequences for coastal species like Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins, penguins, and seabirds which are often victims of commercial and recreational fishing activities, but which MPI has shown little interest in protecting."

In the decision, the judge stated: “The Fisheries Act is focused on biological sustainability of the aquatic environment as a resource for fishing needs. By contrast, the RMA defines sustainability more broadly to include protection and environment more widely to mean ecosystems and their constituent parts (including people and their communities), and all natural and physical resources.

Forest & Bird’s Chief Executive Kevin Hague says “This judgement means that finally someone can do the crucial job that MPI has been ineffective in doing itself”.

"Forest & Bird would like to see New Zealand's ministers putting the same effort into protecting our marine ecosystems and animals as they do in expensive and lengthy court cases that erode New Zealand’s environmental laws.”

Forest & Bird was a party to the original 2016 Environment Court case and the High Court appeal, in support of local iwi group Motiti Rohe Moana Trust.